Mrs. TacoSam and I went to the Getty Museum on Saturday, February 23, 2008, to do some chilaxin on a Saturday afternoon, look at some art, and simply to just unwind from the long week. We saw the photography exhibit entitled Danza de la Cabrita (The Goat’s Dance) Photographs by Graciela Iturbide. Iturbide is a famous Mexican photographer who studied under the master of photography and cinematography Manuel Alvarez Bravo.
To see a short slideshow of my photos from our day at the Getty, please click on this link.
Although the quality of the photographs was excellent, I had mixed feelings about this Exhibit for various reasons. There are two main series of photographs. One series is on the indigenous people of Oaxaca and documents how they slaughter hundreds of goats in an annual ritual at private haciendas. A little boy is selected to do a ritual dance before the slaughter, hence the title.
The other main series is entitled “East L.A.” and documents a so-called family of cholos from one of the oldest gangs in East L.A., White Fence.
PROS: A really big exhibit at the Getty by one of the best photographers alive today, plus she’s Mexican and a woman. Almost all the photos on display are black and white and of excellent quality. Nuestra Senora de las Iguanas, Juchitan, Oaxaca is on display in its full glory. Lots of ancillary programs like conversations, seminars, concerts and festivals accompany this Exhibit. You get a very good glimpse a closed societies and societies that are marginalized and outcast.
CONS: The photographs in this Exhibit hit all the Mexican and Chicano stereotypes in a particularly efficient and excellent fashion. You see the following:
1. Goat sacrifice and blood (this covers the Aztec stereotype, see also Mel Gibson’s movie, Apocalypto);
2. Transvestites (okay I am at a loss on this one);
3. The obligatory cactus (the Nopal stereotype);
4. Extreme poverty in Mexico, Tijuana and East L.A. (the poor Mexican stereotype);
5. A bunch of Cholos with tattoos (the Chicano Cholo stereotype–and this is what they chose as the main image or “logo” for the exhibit that you see printed everywhere and photographed in this post above); and
6. A ton of Cholos and Cholas with heavy makeup and babies, all flashing gang signs (the gang-infested East LA stereotype).
In fact, the East L.A. series could have been photographic stills for the movie Blood in Blood Out (Bound By Honor). There were that many stereotypes! The only thing missing was Edward James Olmos going Oraaaaale!! Particularly entertaining was just sitting back and hearing the comments by the general public on these photographs.
The East LA series was taken in 1986. I wondered to myself whether the Cholos photographed were still alive today and if they knew that they were on display inside the Getty, and whether the Cholo Baby (identified as Boo-Boo) was still alive today (he would be 22 today).
So my question to you dear reader is why is Latino Art or Chicano Art too often focused on or dominated by these same themes? Does Chicano Art have to have lowriders, cholos, tattoos, zuit suits, Edward James Olmos and the Virgen de Guadalupe to be considered Chicano Art? What is Chicano Art?
So-called “good” art is supposed to create a reaction inside of you and make you think or feel something. Based on this criteria, I would categorize this exhibit as good art. I highly recommend that you go see this Exhibit for yourself. If you don’t like it, there are many other things to see and do at the Getty Museum.
A short video clip of an interview with Graciela Iturbide: